I read pedagogy of the oppressed by Paulo Freire during my undergraduate experience and return to it as a source of reflection and when I write. Similar to Parker Palmer, Paulo Freire left an indelible mark on my life’s practice. Education is an uplifting, liberating experience which shines light on each step Antonio Machado described: “Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking.” Freire’ s contention was everyone can act as an agent in their learning thus freeing them and transforming the world they live in.
Freire used the Portuguese word conscientização which “refers to learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (17). Humans become mindful of and present in the world and act to transform it. Freire used a banking metaphor and described traditional education where knowledge is deposited into students. Teachers and the system act oppressively in determining what is important to learn. Freire felt education uplifted people and their learning. “Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it” (p. 60). Learning occurs when compliance and conformity are rejected in favour of dialogue based on love which allows each human to name their world and what is of value in it. The student is a teacher and student; the teacher both student and teacher.
Questions: What can we do to truly bring a new pedagogical structure into our schools and communities of learning? What function would school play in this pedagogical structure? What is dialogue based on love? What role do educators and communities play in liberation education?
Recommendation: I love the book. It is a challenging, but I return to it often and find something new each time. Today, I became aware of the following: “Concepts such as unity, organization, and struggle are immediately labeled as dangerous. … These concepts are dangerous—to the oppressors” (p. 122). What does this mean in supposedly modern, liberated, and affluent societies?
A second point was the similar language used by Freire and Martin Buber. There is a shared understanding of respectful dialogue using the words I and Thou to describe the uplifting, liberating, loving dialogic process.
Freire, P. (1993). pedagogy of the oppressed. (M. B. Ramos, Trans.). New York: Continuum.